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The Neuroscience of Trust - How can we get the best out of our conversations?

13 May

NinetyThousandHours hosted an interactive webinar with guest speaker, Jane Viljoen talking about The Neuroscience of Trust and how we can win in the art of conversations







How can we increase the level of trust so we can get the best out of our conversations?

Research is emerging now in the area of The Neuroscience of Trust, scientists now have the ability to see what is happening in the brain and crucially see which part of the brain is responding when we are experiencing different situations. In this 3rd in our series of leadership webinars we examine this in the context of business conversations and learn about some of the tools that can be utilised to achieve better results.


Sometimes we can forget about the link between our brain and our body. 

A gut feeling is our physiology sending neurotransmitter hormones back to the brain - rather than the other way around. Your genetic activity is determined by your thoughts, furthermore, we can actually change how we see the world by choosing how we think - this is called epigenetics. Interestingly, we can change our genetics, the very DNA in our bodies by changing the way we think. 



Humans have a high addiction to being right - we are chasing this natural high and the dopamine levels we produce from being right. We can train ourselves to have this response from doing the right thing rather than needing to be right. 

We all have Blind spots which affect our ability to regulate this response and stop us from being in a high state of trust with others. 

  • I-centric is all about me, it is great for survival BUT it can stop us empathising with others and clouds our judgement.
  • We-centric - is all about us and collaboration, it helps us build trust.

What are the benefits of C-IQ or the conversation of trust?

We generally recognise when we feel rapport and trust with someone. We recognise the signs which can be to do with body language, how people act towards us, are they consistent with us for example? We don’t necessarily need to like someone to trust them. 

There are many benefits of engaging and building trust with our colleagues, ultimately if we get it right, ideas flow and we get the best result.


We have a choice between positive and negative thoughts. 

You may assume that one part of the brain is responsible for trust, however, in fact different areas of the brain are responsible for Trust vs Distrust. 

Trust sits in the prefrontal (green) area of the brain and Distrust sits in the Primitive (Red) part of the brain. 

The red ‘fight or flight’ area gets activated when we are in a state of Distrust. This is all influenced by chemical reactions. Eg. criticism, accusatory language. This is why we must be so aware of the language we choose to use in conversations. We are also influenced by previous experiences, even if the person does not mean to activate our primitive brain, this can happen. We can use language in a positive way to influence other people’s pre-frontal (green) area of the brain. 



  1. Blind spot 1. Assuming everyone thinks like me and holds the same values. 
  2. Blind spot 2. Feelings don’t change my reality - This is the failure to realise that fear, trust and distrust changes how we see and interpret reality. 
  3. Blind spot 3. This is an inability to stand in each others shoes when we are upset or fearful.
  4. Blind spot 4. The assumption we remember what others say - we actually remember what we think about what others say 
  5. Blind spot 5. I’m listening so I really know what you mean - the meaning actually resides in the listener not the speaker.

If you heighten your EQ and conversational intelligence you are winning at life!!!

The 3 levels of conversation 

Level 1

  • I-centric 
  • Transactional exchange of information - I ask and you tell 

Level 2

  • I and WE-centric
  • Exchange of Power - advocate and inquire 

Level 3 

  • WE-centric
  • Sharing and discovering other peoples thinking. They tune into others way of thinking. In a team this is the ideal scenario. Real sense of flow in conversations.
  • Sometimes even level 3 conversations can be all talk and no action. We need to be careful to kick in our goal directedness to drive it forward.  

How can we get more from group conversations?

In team meetings - it’s important to bring everyone into the conversation. We should make sure we are inclusive and we share information. We should not dictate and criticize. 

When we have trust we allow people to have the confidence to speak out, take risks and make mistakes. If we allow people to make errors without fear of judgement, in a safe environment then they are in turn allowed to think more strategically and often more creativity flows. This is often when the best ideas come out. As pioneers of conversational intelligence, coaching and EQ we want to cultivate the environment so we can ultimately get the best out of our teams. 

Wider reading - Judith E Glaser - spent all career as a human anthropologist, coined the phrase ‘conversation intelligence’ 

If you would like to go through the process of measuring your EQ you can obtain an affordable intervention from Jane in a group session let Jane know at

Jane viljoen

Executive Coach | CEO & Leadership | Neuroscience Based Leadership | Psychology of Success | Expert in Human Performance

Founder and Head Coach of 'Best Hopes Coaching and Consulting', Jane is a highly skilled, experienced and dynamic coach and occupational psychologist. She offers leadership, team and organisational development.

A Registered Psychologist and Conversational Intelligence Enhanced Practioner™, Jane combines principles from the fields of Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Solution Focus and Emotional Intelligence to enable you and your organisation realise its potential.

Jane offers individual coaching, development coaching, executive coaching, career coaching and help yourself be happier coaching

Connect with Jane on LinkedIn here 

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Book in your FREE 30-minute Emotional Intelligence measurement session with Jane HERE

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